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From left: Elders Marlene Kayseas, Norman Meade and Wanbdi Wakita receive their star blankets.

Stories of healing, perseverance and hope heard at 15th annual Elders and Traditional Peoples Gathering

March 23, 2018 — 

Storytelling through music, art and poetry was the theme for the 15th annual Elders and Traditional Peoples Gathering, which took place from March 20 to 21 at Migizii Agamik – Bald Eagle Lodge as part of Indigenous Awareness Month.

“In a really tiny community, you really notice the stories. And the stories are what help you teach the younger kids about life in a smaller community. It helps them learn to be cautious, and to be learners. It is the form that you use to convey what you want the younger generation to learn and to keep them growing up,” said Amanda Fredlund.

Fredlund, along with fellow student staff members Dillon Courchene, Gillian Mcivor, Jordyn Pepin-Sledz and Thomas Roberts, helped organize the gathering. A sacred fire, honour songs and traditional Inuit and Métis music were included, along with a round dance and talks from various Traditional Knowledge Keepers and Elders.

Aboriginal music legend Errol “C-Weed” Ranville and drummer Shannon Buck both discussed music as an integral part of one’s healing journey.

“As I started my healing journey and started moving forward, the first thing that was given to me was a drum – a hand drum,” Buck said.

“And I sat with my first teacher, and we put that drum together, and she shared with me the medicine of that drum, and how it’s heart medicine, and how every culture in the world has a drum, and it reminds us of that first sound that we heard when we were safe and when we were nurtured, that heartbeat of our mother.”

Others who spoke at the gathering included Traditional Knowledge Keepers Nikki Komaksiutiksak, Marilyn Dumont and Sheldon and Angie Cote, as well as Elders Sakoieta Wakathahionni, Linda St. Cyr-Saric, Alo White and Mark Hall.

White – who has been teaching people how to sing since 1980 and is also a sixth door Midewin – stressed the importance of tutelage.

“In the Midewin, the doorways go up to eight. Each doorway has a teaching about songs and medicines and history,” he said. “You can’t go from one to four without knowing all those teachings. It’s my responsibility to teach my people those doorways. It’s a way of life for us.”

Hall, a mentor to others who walk in the Dakota ways, shared an honour song, with student staff member Courchene joining in.

“That’s what that drum does. It brings back relations. Those are the kind of things I understand with this drum,” Hall said of the powerful moment.

“When you pull it out and use it, it brings back memories, it brings back the old people to sit with you and hear your songs, and hear what’s going on. The grandfathers and the grandmothers, they come and sit with us.”

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